Minister Yamamoto and Parliamentary Secretary Shimajiri Visit OIST

“My visit to OIST has reconfirmed of my belief that this university is unique and unconventional and I have high hopes for it to succeed,” said Minister Ichita Yamamoto.

On January 12, 2013, the new Minister of State for Okinawa and the Northern Territories Affairs, Science and Technology Policy, and Space Policy, Mr. Ichita Yamamoto, and Parliamentary Secretary of the Cabinet Office, Ms. Aiko Shimajiri, paid a visit to the OIST campus in Onna Village to receive an update on the university’s progress. Their visit started with a meeting with five graduate students, all of whom informed the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary of their positive experiences at OIST thus far. There are 34 students from 18 countries and regions in the first class, of which 5 are Japanese. Both President Dorfan and Ken Baughman, an OIST graduate student, expressed a hope for the admission of more Japanese students to the graduate program next year. Dorfan assured the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary that OIST has made the utmost effort to reach out to the Japanese student community.

Minister Yamamoto and Parliamentary Secretary Shimajiri were then taken on a tour of Lab 2, which included a visit to Professor Satoshi Mitarai’s Marine Biophysics Unit. In addition to discussing his research on coral distribution around Okinawa, Mitarai and Yamamoto talked about the future of OIST students. “Students should go overseas like I did, particularly our Japanese students,” said Mitarai. “I believe OIST is a gateway to the world for Japanese students,” added Mr. Masahisa Miyazaki, a Lower House Lawmaker, who accompanied the minister with other policymakers from Okinawa, Konosuke Kokuba and Natsumi Higa.

The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary also visited Mukhles Ibrahim Sowwan’s Nanoparticles by Design Unit. There, they were briefed on how the researchers are using state-of-the-art equipment to manipulate individual atoms and molecules for a wide range of applications in medicine, environmental protection and energy production.

While crossing the Skywalk from Lab 2 to the Center Building, President Dorfan showed Minister Yamamoto and his group the proposed future site of Lab 3 and the temporary, prefabricated Tedako Preschool. The permanent versions of these two buildings are imperative to the university’s growth, Dorfan told the Minister. After traversing the Center Court, they  were led through Lab 1 to Professor Noriyuki Satoh’s Marine Genomics Unit. Satoh explained how his team was the first to decode an entire coral genome, a feat that will contribute to the understanding of the coral bleaching process. He also informed Yamamoto and Shimajiri about his current research on decoding the algae that live together with corals. Satoh was also especially keen to tell them about how open OIST faculty members are to collaborating with each other as well as how OIST’s modern sequencing equipment could help other universities and research institutions.

In keeping with tradition, the Minister signed OIST’s Golden Book upon departure. At the end of his visit he said, “My visit to OIST has reconfirmed of my belief that this university is unique and unconventional and I have high hopes for it to succeed.” Ms. Shimajiri added, “I truly believe the global networking occurring at OIST is very important and if there is anything we can do to help progress the university forward, please let us know.”

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